Priest likens criticism of church to anti-semitism

2010-04-03 09:35

POPE BENEDICT XVI has come under more outraged criticism for

allowing a high ranking Vatican priest to suggest that criticism of the Roman

Catholic Church over paedophilia scandals is similar to anti-Semitism.

The comments were made during Good Friday observance at the St

Peter’s Basilica by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher to the Papal

Household at the Vatican.

Saying he was quoting from a letter from a Jewish friend

Cantalamessa said: “The stereotyping, the transfer of personal responsibility

and blame to a collective blame reminds me of the most shameful aspects of

anti-Semitism. I have followed with disgust the violent attack against the

Church (and) the Pope.”

By tradition a person in Cantalamessa’s position is the only person

allowed to preach to the pope. Jewish groups and those representing victims of

abuse by Catholic priests are unhappy that even though Cantalamessa made the

comments in Benedict’s presence the pope made no mention of the child abuse

controversy during a traditional procession later on Good Friday at Rome’s

Colosseum re-enacting Jesus Christ’s final hours and crucifixion.

Vatican spokesperson Federico Lombardi told AFP the comments from

the letter were “not the official position of the Vatican”.

But the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), the

largest and most active of such groups in the US, denounced the remarks.

“It’s heartbreaking to see yet another smart, high ranking Vatican

official making such callous remarks that insult both abuse victims and Jewish

people,” said executive director David Clohessy in a statement.

“The remarks are shameful, inaccurate and a complete distortion of

history,” Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said in

a statement. He demanded an apology from the pope himself.

The child abuse scandal has engulfed much of Europe and the US,

prompting harsh criticism of the Vatican’s handling of the scourge.

The pope himself faces allegations that as archbishop of Munich and

later as the Vatican’s chief morals enforcer he helped to protect predator


This fresh controversy broke as the pope led the celebrations in

what is the holiest week in the Christian calendar. He will celebrate Easter

mass in St Peter’s Square tomorrow.

The head of the Catholic Church in the pope’s native Germany,

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, said Good Friday must “mark a new departure which

we so badly need.”

Zollitsch said the abuse cases filled the hearts of Catholics with

“pain, fear, and shame,” lamenting that many victims had been “unable to express

their pain in words for decades.”

Dozens of people have come forward in Germany alleging they were

abused as children by priests. Most cases date back years if not decades.

France became the latest European country to implicate paedophile


A lawyer for Father Jacques Gaimard, director of a Christian radio

station in northern France, said he had admitted sexually assaulting a boy in

the early 1990s and saw his arrest as a “deliverance” after years of private


But the Vatican newspaper, Osservatore Romano, published messages

of support for the pope from around the world.

A letter signed by a group of 70 leading French figures expressed

horror at crimes of paedophilia and solidarity with the victims while “paying

homage to the pope’s will to shed light on these cases”.

The letter, signed by writers, a philosophy professor and a

Lutheran pastor among others, accused the media of unfair reporting.

The Osservatore also published messages of support for the pope

from the Canadian bishops and from the Latin American Episcopal Conference, both

of which attacked media coverage of the story.

But in Austria the Platform for Victims of Violence by the Church

said it had received reports of 174 more cases of maltreatment and sexual abuse

in Catholic institutions since creating a hotline two weeks ago.

And in New York,about 10 victims of abuse by paedophile priests

demonstrated in front of Saint Patrick’s cathedral during the Good Friday



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